How to Enjoy Your Quiet Time

“Read your bible, pray everyday” was a famous Sunday school chorus we learnt growing up. We not only sang it faithfully, we ardently tried to follow it to the letter, most often completely missing the point of the song.

So, although I was pretty regular doing my quiet time as a child, I did it mostly to check it off my list. Only during my masters degree program did I really understand what it was to enjoy my quiet time. It was during my time away from home, when I was pushed out of my comfort zone, that I understood the value of God’s word and the wealth of treasure I held in my lap.

Two significant things happened at that time that completely changed my view about quiet time from one of drudgery, to one of absolute enjoyment. First, I discovered the art of journaling. I began jotting down simple things that I learned from my quiet time. When I went back and read those verses and notes they really encouraged me. Second, one of my sponsors in seminary, gifted me a beautiful NIV Life Application Study Bible (which I still use to this day). I felt like a child with a new toy. I started rediscovering timeless truths from the bible. I began studying the bible and I began to enjoy what I was doing. Quiet time was not a point I checked off on my to-do list but a time I longed to spend with my Creator.

Here are a few tips that have helped me enjoy my walk with the Lord:

1) Favourite spot – I am a creature of habit and usually like to do certain things a certain way. Every time we shift houses I pick a favourite spot in the hall (living room). There is one particular couch that I like to sit on. That becomes my quiet time couch. (I specifically pick the hall because I have found myself falling asleep when I chose to do my quiet time in the bedroom.)

2) Favourite drink – I usually like to sit with a cup of hot herbal tea. It seems to wake me up and soothe me all at once.

3) Pick a time – Before my kids came along I would do my quiet time first thing in the morning but these days I do it right after they’ve all left for school. Personally, since I’m a morning person I enjoy doing my quiet time in the morning rather than in the night, because by the time 6 PM comes along I’m ready to call it a day. So choose whatever time works best for you, just try to be consistent with it.

4) Study Bible – Using a good study bible really helps. Of course there is so much help online to look up references and study, but I prefer a hard copy bible where I can mark and underline and make notes. Not everyone has commentaries handy on their book shelves, so I feel a study bible is a good tool to have in the house to add depth to your reading. Trust me, it makes quiet time so enjoyable!

5) Colour pens/pencils – I like marking different things in my bible with different colours. For example I would mark all the promises in pink and all the commands to obey in green and lessons I learned in yellow. So even if I went back to my bible years later I knew exactly why I had marked out those verses.

6) Journal – For the last three years our church has been encouraging us to use the Community Bible Reading (CBR) journal. I have enjoyed using this journal. The plan is to finish reading and studying the bible in three years time using the journal. The passage for the day is mentioned and the pages are brilliantly marked out for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication points. There is also space to write out lessons you’ve learned. Using this journal has made me more intentional and systematic about my quiet time and has made the experience very enjoyable. There have been many lessons that I have learned and re-learned these last three years. Every time I have felt low or sad I flip through the pages of my quiet time journal and see how God has been faithful to me in the past.

Having said all this, I have to confess that I don’t do my quiet time everyday. There are days that I miss. But when I do miss a day or two, it’s not out of guilt that I pick up my bible again, but out of this deep longing to spend time with my Creator and Saviour. Recently at church the preacher spoke on a passage from the life of Mary and Martha. He made a very poignant statement during the sermon. He said, “Before we cultivate Martha’s hands of service let us cultivate Mary’s heart of devotion.” And that thought has really stuck in my head. Most of the time I find myself being a Martha running from pillar to post, serving the Lord. But the times I have intentionally chosen to be Mary, are the times I have grown in my faith and the times that my soul has been refreshed. May these verses from Luke 10:41-42 encourage you as much as they have encouraged me.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

Lights, Camera, Action…Freeze.

I was ready. I had practised the song many times. And as my name was called out, I confidently walked up to the microphone in a room full of high school students, to belt out my first solo for a competition.

And then, I froze. I couldn’t even remember the first line of the song. I blanked out. After a few awkward seconds that felt like an eternity, I stumbled out of the room. I just wanted to disappear from the face of the earth, never having to see my classmates ever again. Of course, that didn’t happen and for the rest of the week, I pretended that no one recognised me or that they forgot what had happened. Thankfully, my friends were kind enough not to mention that ‘incident’ ever again.

I never attempted another solo in school after that…

That is, until I joined college and was asked by my seniors to sing during the many ‘Introduction’ sessions. First, it was usually in one of the senior girls’ hostel rooms with many seniors packed inside and the fresher girls lined up against a wall. Then, we were asked to ‘volunteer’ to sing at social gatherings, chapel gatherings, and so on. By the end of the first couple of months, I was prepared to sing my way out of any sticky situation.

Over the next couple of years, we even formed a small band. Yes, imagine that! All this happened so quickly and naturally that I had no time to remember how scared I had been just a few years ago and how God had changed that for me through a series of ‘under-pressure’ encounters in college. Nobody in college would have believed me if I’d told them about the school competition incident.

The fact is, I still tremble if I have to stand up in front of people, and I’ll still do anything to avoid having to be there. Somehow, it’s easier to sing than to talk in front of an audience. Maybe it’s because songs are easier to memorise, or because you don’t necessarily need to make eye contact while singing? I don’t know. One thing I have realised is that whenever I sang in college, it was usually a worship song and the One I was singing to and for gave me the strength, confidence and talent to sing.

I have friends who are mesmerising on stage and amazing at connecting with audiences. They are so at-home in front of people or on stage. I admire them and praise God for their talent and their confidence. Perhaps they should be the ones writing this article instead of me. But I write because I am still in the process of overcoming this fear. And it’s okay even if I never fully overcome it. 

We all have different fears and different gifts. Not everyone is made for the stage or the limelight. Some work wonders behind the scenes making the ones on stage look and sound good. And it’s beautiful when those offered the limelight are able to reflect the glory of the One who bestowed them with their talents and give Him back all the glory. You realise then that it’s not just a performance but a lifestyle of worship; not just talk but a lifestyle of walking the talk.

Here are five things I have learned about my own fears:

  1. I tend to forget about them when I am under pressure of some kind.
  2. The fear becomes insignificant when something greater is at stake.
  3. I overcome it so that I can encourage someone else to overcome it. This has become more evident since I’ve become a parent.
  4. Some kinds of fear are intuitive and may be even necessary to keep you alive.
  5. God is capable of handling all my fears. Seriously.

So the next time you face your fear, remember that only you can overcome it. No one else can do it for you. And God is the best coach to take you over to the other side of fear.

When and how did you overcome your fear? Or are you like me, still in the process? We’d love to hear about it.

Photo Credit : Unsplash

 

Every Fear Has A Story

Everybody thinks, I’m brave. Maybe it’s because I like bungee jumping or running long distances alone in the dark – or because I moved to India! But the truth is this: I am a fearful person. I just preferred to keep it to myself. I avoided it, fought against it and ran away from it. Facing my fears was difficult, but it was the first step into a new freedom.

The many faces of fear

Everyone is afraid. In former times, men were afraid of epidemics and forces of nature. Today we are more scared of loneliness, of terror and political uncertainty, of failure, of not being truly loved, existential anxiety, or even fear of spiders or snakes. A friend of mine is actually scared of moles and clowns! Almost everybody knows the fear of our own finiteness, of disease and death.

Some fears enter our life abruptly. In my case, it was the fear of flying after one experience of engine problems. Since then, my heart races and I start sweating when turbulence occurs. I travel often and I know flying is safe – but since that one bad experience, I feel a total loss of control.

When fear enters our life, it is so difficult to get rid of it. It creeps into our head and heart, puts brakes on our goals and harms our relationships, our faith and our conception of our selves. A life completely devoid of fear is not possible. In fact, we need fear as an alarm system to react and protect us during dangerous situations. But when fear becomes overpowering and starts paralysing us, due to anger or panic, then it becomes a danger to us and to others. Fear becomes a threat when we get stuck in it and let it dominate us.

What fear does to us

People have different kinds of strategies to deal with fear. Some try to hide it and isolate themselves, while others aggressively move forward.  I belong to the second category. When my friend was killed, I began to run alone at night. I was a teenager, trying to cope with my fear and trying to reduce it. Even today, it sometimes happens that my elbow moves fast when I feel somebody touching me from behind. My husband can’t understand how a confident woman like me can be that jumpy. But I have always been scared since childhood. I believe that fear grows with the years – just like weeds do when we don’t fight the roots.

As a child, I was scared of bad dreams and of two boys who teased me every day in school. I never told anybody, because my friends and family had this image of me as a strong girl. But in school, I was shy and scared: the perfect victim. As a teenager, the fear of not being accepted and understood grew more and more. I had a fear of failure, and I failed often in several subjects. At 18, I found myself a boyfriend – just to prove that I was loveable. In university, I did everything to get good scores and get some recognition. I worked as a model and actress just to feel beautiful and precious. To lose the fear of heights, I did bungee and parachute jumping and races in the Alps. I tried so hard to shake off my fears. But I never tried to look at what lay behind it, to understand it. I was too scared of my fear.

Look behind the fear

Actually, it is very simple: I am scared of being hurt – both physically and mentally. Our brain does not know the difference anyway: no matter if it is lovesickness, financial worries or social mobbing, it will activate the same processes and circuits in the brain as physical pain. My friends and family were unaware that it was fear breathing down my neck that made me react so rudely. I preferred to hit out around me rather than taking the risk of someone hurting me. Of course this behaviour did not help me or others. When I realised that fear was hiding behind my anger, I did not know how to handle that.

I figured out my biggest fears and took a close look at their impact on my life. How did they influence my relationships, my faith and my work? In relationships, it was the fear of rejection, of not being good enough. With God, it was the fear that He doesn’t really care about me, doesn’t see me and takes away people I love. In work, my biggest fear was failure, being dependent and being average.

Fear and God

For people without God, there is no safe place in this world. But I do believe in God – so why do I still feel unsafe? Maybe because I did not really know this God I claimed to trust? Once I understood that I did not really trust in God – that I was not totally convinced by His love and that he does not make any mistakes – I learned that I really had to start getting to know my Father in heaven better. A God who is not almighty and loving will cause fear too.

In contrast to all religions, we have a God in Jesus who felt our fears in body and soul. There is no fear that He doesn’t know! He was abandoned by people and even felt forsaken by God Himself. He suffered unfathomable isolation, rejection and death for us and conquered all his fears.

I have decided it is time to stop feeding my fears. They are on diet now. To be honest: I still fear. There is no life without anxiety. But I want to learn to trust that there is no fear bigger and stronger than my Saviour. I want to trust Him who holds my days in His hands, who doesn’t make mistakes. Putting the reins in his hands is what I practice every day.

Sometimes these great verses of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in prison a few months before the Nazis executed him, are helpful:

“By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered, and confidently waiting come what may, we know that God is with us night and morning, and never fails to greet us each new day…We know your light is shining in the dark…”

The Angsts of a New Mother

I’d had a restless night.

Throwing the bed covers aside, I waddled out of bed as graciously as a 6-month pregnant woman could and went to make a pot of tea. My husband walked into the kitchen a short while later.

“What’s on your mind, babe?” he asked gently. He’s got a special ability to figure out when something is bothering me. I guess most husbands do.

Stretching my legs and rubbing my back, I looked at him worriedly.

“What if we mess up as parents? And what if we mess up big time?”

These were some of those fear-begetting questions I wished had never entered my head. They had snuck up on me and kept me awake for most of the night.

I thought my husband might laugh off this question as one of those many paranoid hypotheticals I throw at him. But surprisingly, he sighed and took my question quite seriously. We leaned back into our chairs for a long chat.

As I began to reflect deeper, I realized that my parents had loved me intensely yet imperfectly. Growing up, I had blamed them for some of the parental decisions and choices they made for me, vowing to never make the same mistakes when I became a parent.

But here I was on the verge of becoming a parent myself, hopelessly consumed by the fears of my own inadequacy coupled with the fear of the unknown.  What guarantee is there that, despite my best efforts, my child won’t feel let down by the way I bring her up? What if she blames me for the choices that I make for her in her tender years? What if my style of parenting creates such a negative lasting impression that it leaves her with a personality disorder? And most frighteningly, what if she turns her back on God because of something that I do or say? What is the point of parenting if you love unconditionally only to be hurt?

Like every pregnant woman, I first ascribed these fears to the ‘having-a-mind-of-their-own’ pregnancy hormones. But whatever their source, they continued to hound my mind for days. My husband and I prayed about it, searched the Scriptures, and talked through it with each other and with some of our close friends. These deep seated fears birthed an incredible way of walking with God and seeing His Father heart yet again.

The thing about our fears is that they cloud our hearts from seeing and savouring the sufficiency of Christ! I had forgotten that God is sovereign.  The truth that He is all-knowing, all-powerful and in full control of every person and situation had slipped my mind. It’s not a truth that I can put my finger on. It’s lofty, glorious and amazingly settling. In the revelation of that knowledge, it’s calming to view parenting with a fresh set of hopeful eyes.

I learned that, as parents, it’s supremely easy to feel a sense of ownership and entitlement with our children. Possessive and protective instincts rush in at the drop of a baby hat. Of course, those instincts are God-given. But do we snatch our kids from the Giver himself or do we place them firmly in the palm of His secure hands? Do we parent through helpless dependence on the perfect Father or through the pridefulness of an imperfect mother? Maybe, if we’d see ourselves as stewards over our children, we’d save ourselves a lot of grief.

As the days went by, God continued to help me look deeper into my heart. My fears and doubts were legitimate and he would of course answer them. But those answers would make real sense only when the heart issue was addressed. As I looked at parenting with dependent humility on an all-sufficient God, I began to let go of my moral high ground over my parents’ failures. I couldn’t spend a lifetime holding onto real and perceived hurts. I needed to release forgiveness and remember that they’d loved me fiercely. I even needed to remember the wonderful memories they had created for me, the ones that lay buried beneath all the hurt. Most important of all, they’d pointed me to my Lord and Saviour. Even though they might not have been perfect parents, they had been faithful parents sustained by grace.

My daughter has arrived and is growing up to be the sunshine of our lives. Has having my eyes opened to some deep insights made all my parenting angsts go away? Not really. Sure, I will be intentional about making the right choices, being extra gracious and mindful of the way I bring my daughter up. But I am fairly certain that I will make my own mistakes; some of them probably quite disastrous. The key though is to be humble enough to depend on God and reconcile before Him and my daughter every time I mess up.

It also means that I’ll have to let go of trying to be that perfect parent (by my own standards), simply because I can never be the perfect parent by myself. Joyfully, in the redeeming grace of Christ, I am the perfect parent, even on my bad days! Mercifully, God can turn my shortcomings into good for my daughter.

My daughter will make choices for herself as she grows up. The best thing I can do for her is to let God be her God. And the most precious prayer I can pray over her is that He will reveal his love for her in whatever way He may choose to. I can walk with her and constantly direct her to the only One who can fulfil her every need. Her perfect parent lovingly displayed His everlasting love for her on the Cross. He became vulnerable and offered himself up to pay for her and my sins, knowing fully well that we might reject, disobey, blame, hate or disbelieve him. Yet He chose to pour out his Father heart for our sake. What better love can I model and point her to every day?

I suspect that there will be plenty of moments in the future when my heart will skip a beat thinking of all those ‘what ifs’. But I pray that those moments would be reminders for me to immediately look to the perfect Father who alone can quell my fears and help me love her as deeply as I’m loved.

Photo Credit : Unsplash

Picking Up the Pieces

Blink! Blink! my cursor goes as I pause to reconsider my decision to write about this emotional struggle I’ve been dealing with. But that’s how I’ve always been. Mostly on the fence. Always second guessing myself. Always having to be pushed to do things. However, one thing I was good at was making friends. I took time to make friends, but when I did, I knew I’d keep them for life. I always gave so much of myself to every new friend I made. I was one of those looking at old pictures-letter writing-kinda soppy type óf friends. I was happiest being around my friends.

Before I knew it, I was married and was soon a mother with no time to breathe, let alone maintain friendships. I’d like to think I tried my best to stay in touch. Maybe I didn’t. Because I have never really understood how I went from there to where I found myself in the year 2010: yearning for one friend, at least one, to say, “Hey, I’m here for you” — and then proving it.

That year, my family went through a rather public crisis. We never knew what hit us and nothing could prepare our “over-protected” selves for the dark side of journalism, politics and social media we were suddenly exposed to. As we propped each other up, we were grateful for the precious few that stood by us as a family and prayed us through that horrid time. But there were many others that turned a blind eye. Many took to social media with their distorted versions of the truth. Still others clearly dissociated themselves from us. It was a lonely time to say the least.

Yet, through it all, God was our mighty fortress. Our faith faltered one minute and the next it was strengthened more than ever. I remember how, on one rather depressing day, I silently pleaded with God to show me a sign that He had everything under control. As I looked up, I saw a beautiful rainbow and there was not a dark cloud in the sky. How my heart swelled!

When we came out of this experience, I saw a broken family. Each of us had been broken differently. And each of us has needed healing. I came out of this bitter and angry. Bitter and cynical at the world, hurt and angry at my friends. I was hurt that even the few that finally got in touch were friends whom I reached out to in desperation. I was angry at the friends who used social media to heartlessly say hurtful things. All those promises to “stand by each other no matter what” came back empty and it broke me.

With time, Satan used this brokenness and anger to harden me. I let no one in. I cut ties with 90% of my friends. The ones I still spoke to, I did with no real concern for them. I made new connections with people who knew nothing of what I had been through, but always made sure to keep my guard up.

A couple of years ago, God broke me again. I was reading the book of Job when I read something I had never noticed before.

“And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends…” (Job 42:10)

After all that Job had been through — and I am certain God felt everything Job felt — there was restoration only AFTER Job prayed for his friends. Reconciliation meant that much to God.

I knew what I had to do. And I was petrified. “I can’t be vulnerable again, Lord!” But trust Him, I did; and so, taking baby steps, I began to pray for my friends and I began to reconnect. It was harder with some than with others. Along the way, I had decided that some were just not worth the effort; but God has shown me since that He doesn’t want me to pick and choose the ones that hurt least. He wants me to forgive and reconcile with ALL my friends. Two weeks ago, I messaged the one friend who had hurt me the most and even as I hit send, I felt this HUGE weight being lifted off. (I have only read that phrase in books and didn’t know it was actually possible in real life, but possible it was!)

This new lease of life for my old friendships is different. There are no expectations. My friends will not fall into a perfect friend mould because no one is perfect. They may not be there for me the next time I need them, but that’s alright. I worship Someone who will always be there. Human relationships will always fall short because God wants me to rely on Him.

If you’re reading this and are picking up the broken pieces of your heart — or have built a comfortable wall around that broken heart — pray and reconcile. There will be restoration.

You only love God as much as the person you love least. — Dorothy Day

Photo Credit : Unsplash

What’s An Impossible Dream In Your Life?

Do you have an impossible dream in your life? Something you think would be amazing to accomplish, but is outside your grasp and seems unattainable? Let me tell you about one of my impossible dreams. And maybe I can inspire you to go after one of your own, seemingly impossible dreams, sooner rather than later.

A few years ago, I decided to do a sprint triathlon. I was about to exit my twenties and I wanted to do something completely outside my comfort zone to mark an end to that decade of my life. If you don’t know what a sprint triathlon is, let me tell you: it includes a 400 metre swim, a 21 km bike ride, and then a 5 km run to finish it off.

I sincerely believed in my heart that I couldn’t do it, since I didn’t even know how to swim, let alone swim 400 metres in one go. My best friend at the time had been praying for me, and she felt like God said if you are willing to put the work into this, I believe you can do it. She also asked me a question: “Imagine you are at the finish line, you have done it. Was it worth it? What will making this dream a reality mean for you?”

I said it would mean that I accomplished something that I believed was impossible for me to achieve. Imagining myself at the finish line was so outside of my reality at that time, it seemed like a fantasy. However, with the support of a lot of my close friends, and trusting that God believed I could do it if I made the effort, I decided to try. I signed up for the race right away, to make sure I was committed. I had four months to train for the race. Some friends supported me by signing up to do the race with me. One friend helped put my training plan on the calendar. Another helped me train so that I could get comfortable with my swimming. Others came out and practiced with me.

Even though I wasn’t anywhere near first, second or third place, I am proud to say that with the support of my friends and with God’s blessing, I successfully finished that triathlon. I realised then that I had been limiting myself based on my experiences of the past. God’s word says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He also tells us to keeping pressing on. Our past doesn’t have to determine our future. Sometimes the limitations we put on ourselves are because of past experiences, or a lack of belief in God and our abilities. I certainly don’t want to live a life where I am stagnating and nothing is changing or growing. Even though living in my comfort zone is so easy!

One thing I learned during training for the race was the power of self-discipline. I didn’t feel like training every day. There were many reasons I could have given up. However, sticking to the schedule helped me achieve my goal. Many times when I was running and feeling exhausted I would picture myself running to the finish line on race day, and that gave me the energy to keep going. Also, having accountability and commitment to the goal, were the ultimate reasons I finished that race. It wasn’t easy but it was so worth it! It has also boosted my confidence to try other things that I thought were impossible for me, like learning to play the guitar or learning tennis. (Still working on these goals!)

 

What is an area of your life where you could use more of God’s strength? Is there an area of your life that is keeping you bound in shame from your past? Maybe it’s your career, your marriage, your self-image, your relationships. Let’s surrender those areas to the Lord together, and ask Him to help us do the impossible in those areas of our lives.

Take a few moments now and decide on your impossible dream. Pray about it, and get good counsel when talking to friends and family. If you still want to go forward, get a support system in place, get committed, and get started! I believe in you.

Photo Credit : Unsplash

Walking By Faith, Not Fear

Overcoming fear… As I sat drumming my fingers on a metaphorical table, mentally assessing various ideas to write about for this month’s topic, I realised that this was something I was very good at ignoring – fear, I mean. Before you labour under the mistaken notion that I am claiming to be in any way fearless, allow me to disabuse your mind. Although I am quite the worrywart, most people who know me would never describe me as a fearful person. Yet recently, I experienced a season of crippling fear. And my way of dealing with it? Ignore the cause.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A couple of years back, I sensed God leading me to pray, not just for myself but for others; to intercede, if you will. So I took a few baby steps in that direction. Then followed a season of severe personal strife. Though God was faithful and I eventually came through, it is a time that I look back on with dread. There was too much pain, too much heartache. Then recently, I heard God very clearly say that I needed to start praying and interceding again. Now, I’ve always claimed that if I just heard God say – This is your calling – I would jump to it and joyfully start obeying and serving. Yet here I was hearing exactly that, but there was no resulting jumping or joyful obeying.

Instead, there was a paralysing fear.

For some reason, I was afraid I would lose my daughter. There was no logic to the fear. Yet my mind would provide these plausible scenarios where something terrible could happen to her. So I did what any sane person would do. Ignore the cause; that is, ignore the command to pray. (Don’t ask. It made sense to me at the time!) I believed that praying and interceding would leave my family open to spiritual attack. It had happened before. It could happen again. And this time, the damage could be worse. Oh, the thoughts I thought nearly drove me insane! Fear for my daughter’s safety kept me awake at night. I tried to bargain with God – “Ok, Lord, You want me to pray. Then promise me that You will keep Abby safe. Give me a verse. Speak to me. Tell me she will be ok. I need to know. Then I can obey You.

Absolute silence.

Which can be unnerving to say the least.

So again, I did what any sane person would do – I got angry. With God, for not speaking or giving me a promise. With myself, for being so ridiculously afraid of hypothetical situations. With life. (I’m realising being sane is not all it’s made out to be). This led me to exhibit Jonah-esque tendencies. At least he had the guts to run away from Nineveh. I, on the other hand, took the cowardly option of hypocrisy. Instead of disobeying God outright, I played around with the notion of prayer. I prayed some days (out of guilt), and forgot to do it most days. I carefully ignored my fears, attempting to keep up appearances. Of course, this didn’t fool God or me. I tried to tell myself I was obeying in letter (sometimes), but I knew that I wasn’t in my heart.

Until one Sunday morning when the message from the pulpit struck a chord deep in my soul. The preacher shared his own experience of hearing God’s call and finding his response being crippled by fear and pride. Two simple points – fear and pride. I knew then, even as I heard him share, that when God calls us, we have to obey. We have to step out of the boat and get on the stormy seas. Obedience comes first. Understanding may come later.

Something broke inside me that day. I knew what God was calling me to do. I had to obey. I might not understand why He didn’t give me promises to calm my fear but I had to choose to trust God, above my fears. It was about living by faith and not by sight. Phrases of “Christianese” that I’d grown immune to over the years began to shimmer with a new light.

My daughter illustrated this for me very vividly the other day. After giving her a bath, I was trying to towel her hair dry. “Trying” being the operative word as she kept squirming, working herself up into a nice frenzy till anyone watching us would have thought that I was actively torturing her. Irritated, I yelled sharply told her to stand still, asking rhetorically, “What’s wrong with you?” Taking this at face value, she replied, “I can’t see.” So I retorted, “Why do you need to see? I’m drying your hair so that you won’t catch a cold.” To which she replied simply, “But I have to see.”

This was exactly what God had to put up with when dealing with me! (Thankfully, He doesn’t yell or give sharp retorts.) Here He was, doing everything for my good, while I was struggling with frustration trying to “see” when there was no need. If I trusted God and had faith that He was in control and He would work everything out, then sight didn’t come into the picture. I didn’t need any assurances or promises from God to keep my daughter safe. I knew, whatever the future held, He was there and He would work it out for good.

So I took the step of obedience. And the fear left. No, I’ve not had any assurances or promises about my daughter’s safety, but there is peace. And there is no longer silence.

6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Swimming

We’re in our car and my husband is driving. Our friend is travelling with us. We’re on a bridge and the car hits the side wall and overturns. Plummeting deep into the green water of the river below, we struggle helplessly to get out of the car. I’m losing my breath, I’m drowning, I’m unable to save myself or my family…

I wake up, panting. It was only a dream.

This dream started haunting me recently. I was never paranoid about water until I had this dream. I grew up in Chennai, on India’s southeastern coast, so our family was at the beach pretty often. But my parents were so scared of letting us swim in the ocean that we would just go wet our feet for some time and come back home. I never knew that there was something called a swimming pool, until my brother was in middle school and signed up for summer swimming coaching.

Fast forward to recent times. My daughter learnt to swim three years ago and my son learnt last year. Every time they went to the pool, my kids would beg me to come swim with them. Of course, yours truly knew nothing about swimming.  I could barely manage to stand in the pool for some time. And of course, if I tried putting my head in the water, I thought I was instantly drowning.

So my goal for this summer was to learn swimming. Here are six things I wish I’d known before I started:

1) ‘Just Relax’ is the most important swimming tip you are ever going to get. I realised that the more desperately I tried to swim, the more I sank. At least, that’s how I felt the first few times. Then I decided to just relax in the water and have fun. It didn’t matter whether I looked like a walrus or a giant blue whale in the water, I was just going to enjoy myself. It didn’t matter whether I had water going into my ears and nose, I was just going to relax and not let it bother me. And that’s when it clicked. The minute my tensed shoulders relaxed was the first time I floated for a considerable amount of time. I felt delirious!

2) Kids are very agile. Yes, they are. Kids are way better than adults when it comes to learning any sport and the same holds true for swimming. My 10 year old niece, 9 year old daughter and 13 year old niece were all in the same class with me and they were learning things much faster than me. It was then that I wished I had learnt to swim as a child as opposed to learning it now as an adult.

3) A good coach can make all the difference. I had two women from Kerala who were my coaches this summer. They were simply brilliant. They were chatty and funny, imitating each of us underwater. And they taught us to swim in just fifteen days. They knew exactly how to handle nervously chatty adult women with deft and skill. They knew when to push us in and when to pull us out.

4) Deep end diving is not as scary as it seems. When my coach asked me to go to the deep end and try diving, I went pretty bravely. The first time, I did pretty great. I belly flopped, but at least I didn’t sink. So I went with overconfidence the second time. When I saw the deep blue water, I literally froze. The dream started playing in my head and the next thing I knew, I had jumped in the wrong way and was quickly taking in water, sinking and gasping for breath. That’s when my brilliant coach rescued me and smiled and reassured me that I wasn’t dead yet. Then she took my son (who was also paranoid about deep end diving) and me to another side of the pool and taught us the right way to do it. Gently talking to us and easing our fears, she made us dive repeatedly until we overcame our fear. Now we like to do it just for the fun of it.

5) It’s a great way to burn tummy fat. I wanted to learn swimming to overcome my fear of water, but burning belly fat was an added bonus. I have major issues with scar tissue and adhesions and can never do crunches or planks or push ups or anything remotely connected to my abdominal muscles without experiencing intense pain. Swimming has helped me shave off a few inches from my perpetually pregnant-looking tummy. The good news? It was pain free.

6) What you think you look like in the water is completely different from what you actually look like in the water. For the most part, I imagined myself to be this beautiful Olympic swimmer slicing through the water effortlessly. But in reality, when my coach imitated my swimming, it was a hilarious combination of a giant water monster trying to do some Michael Jackson moves, with the facial expressions of one trying to prevent herself from drowning. So yes, I stopped imagining the unattainable and started working on a few swimming skills that would actually help me enjoy swimming. And in the bargain, who cares if some of the onlookers are entertained by my flailing arms and legs and snorts? It doesn’t bother me anymore, because in my own head, I’m still that Olympic swimmer, right?

And so I’ve come to realise that the dream doesn’t seem to bother me anymore. Tackling my fear head on, and overcoming it, has left me feeling happy and confident. I’ve enjoyed the sport and have tried to make the best use of this season. The kids and I are now trying to convince my husband to learn as well. With those happy thoughts, I’m off for a swim!

Photo Credit : Unsplash

%d bloggers like this: